Friday, June 3, 2016

Does House Arrest Include Wi-Fi?

Monday, May 30, 2016
We saw the documentary "Weiner" this weekend.  It was fascinating to watch the downfall of a bright, energetic public servant in the grasp of compulsive sexual behavior.  Weiner, who resigned from the House of Representatives and later ran in the Democratic primary for New York City mayor, had to know from the start how risky his conduct was (he adopted the nom de Internet  of Carlos Danger), yet he persisted even after his first very public fall from grace.  Even though some commentators consider his wife complicit, at least in sticking with him and aiding his campaign for redemption, I felt she was an undeserving victim of his mania.

Beyond the immediate details of this sad story, I think that it illuminates a persistent issue, the tension between the public and the private.  How do we regard a person's public life when we know entirely too much about his (no need to be gender neutral when we are really talking about male depravity) private behavior, whether Anthony Weiner, Bill Clinton, Aroldis Chapman, Gary Hart, Woody Allen, Elliot Spitzer, Phil Mickelson, David Vitter, Ray Rice, John Edwards, Jose Reyes, et alia?  Of course, our athletes, such as, Chapman, Rice, and Reyes, often make it easier for us to judge by committing criminal offenses, even if not always prosecuted.  However, the willingness to forgive seems to be more readily exercised for your hometown favorites regardless of the gravity of the offense.

So, should good public works be the measure of a man in spite of private debauchery or venality?  Or, may bad judgment anywhere be an omen of bad judgment everywhere?  And, are we willing to forgive bad deeds unless packaged with lies?  Unfortunately, Weiner and Spitzer as Jews, although very secular Jews, were unable to embrace Jesus and be born again, a path often taken by the Gentility on the road to redemption.

I found an interesting pairing of headlines in the Sunday New York Times: "Top C.E.O. Pay Fell — Yes, Fell — in 2015" and "A Worrisome Pileup Of $100 Million Homes."  

I certainly am not worried about the tippy top of the real estate market, and I imagine that our MBA-armed corporate warriors are pleased that their slightly diminished income may not inhibit their empire building.  My own unexceptional morality and wealth insulated me somewhat from the matters above.  But, a question to an employment counselor advisor stirred a memory.

An employee's superior commented, after a meeting, "You know what will happen — our business partner will Jew the price down.”  The employee was Jewish, unknown to the speaker, and was "flabbergasted . . . [by this] blatant bigotry." Forty years ago, I managed a group of 30 computer programmers and business analysts in Los Angeles.  My top assistant was a conscientious sweetheart of a guy, from a non-big city, midwestern background.  His last name would have been taken for Jewish in New York City, but he wasn't.  In the course of a pleasant conversation, he said something very similar to what was spoken above.  Sorry to say, but I can't remember what I said or did 40 years ago, although the positions of power were reversed from the published anecdote.  The term "politically correct" was not in common usage back then, although offensive speech seems to be a constant over decades.  

While crime reporting is at the heart of most tabloid journalism, the seemingly serious New York Times carries its share of crime stories.  However, not all such are presented as such.   The Sunday real estate section, as it usually does, featured a neighborhood to consider for purchases/rentals.  This week it was Belmont in the Bronx, the classic Bronx Little Italy (recall Dion and the Belmonts?).  

Along with median home prices and description of local features and attractions, the Times provides information about neighborhood schools.  Elementary Public School 32 (865 students) has 16% of students meeting state standards in English, 22% in math; elementary Public School 51 (240 students) has 25% of students meeting state standards in English and 29% in math; elementary Public School 205 (1,080 students) has 22% percent of students meeting standards in English, and 25% meeting standards in math; at Middle School 45 (740 students) 13% of the students met standards in English and 7% met standards in math.  This is a crime, or a series of crimes, in progress.  It's not only child abuse, I think that taxpayers can rightfully cry, "Stop, thief."

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
I want to warn you of an unwelcome trend illustrated by two restaurant reviews in today's newspaper.  The headline reads "Tiny Stages With Outsize Performances."  I considered going to one or the other of these commended establishments for lunch today.  However, neither is open for lunch on a weekday; one serves lunch on weekends only.  What's worse, one is described as "a tiny lunch counter."  This exclusivity is becoming all too frequent.  The second iteration of Mission Chinese, for instance, is only open for dinner.  This is frustrating whether I was still fully employed or having all afternoon to gambol about seeking new thrills and chills.

While the days of the three martini lunch are far behind us and were, in fact, rarely in front of us, a person should be able to have a good meal even in daylight.

I smoked cigarettes for about 25 years, sometimes 2 packs a day. I never pretended that it wasn't harmful, but, befitting a full-blown habit, I made no attempt to stop.  Each Yom Kippur, I fasted for the requisite time, approximately sundown to sundown, not smoking as well.  When the Holy Day was over, I reached for a cigarette even before looking around for a salami sandwich. I never tried to leverage that one day hiatus into a permanent halt.  However, one day, I decided that when I finished the current carton (never one to be wasteful) I would stop smoking and I did.  I never backslid; in fact, the few times that I was handed a marijuana cigarette subsequently, I barely put it to my lips and took the gentlest of puffs.  I did not want to experience the sensual pleasure of labial contact, very much part of the smoking experience.

This brief reminiscence introduces the topic of withdrawal symptoms.  When I stopped smoking, for a time I had trouble with my hands when standing up in public, since I wasn't holding a cigarette.  Otherwise, the transition was only mildly challenging as I fought the urge to reach for chocolate-covered raisins as a substitute for cigarettes.  However, this afternoon, I could not resist rushing off to Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, for lunch, unable to stay away too long now that I am retired, when I used to have lunch there about once a week for several years.  I ate shrimp egg foo young and brown rice, smiling when I wasn't chewing.

Thursday, June 2, 2016
The New York Times reports today on a pattern of fabulously rich defendants asking to be let out on bail in surroundings of their own design.

Prosecutors fear that these perps, with almost unlimited material and financial resources, including multiple passports, would manage to fly the coop.  Also, meanwhile ordinary human beings may not even be able to meet conventional conditions of bail and therefore remain in jail until trial.  

Here comes Grandpa Alan to the rescue.  Allow the filthy rich to create and inhabit their gilded cages until they get their day in court, on the condition that they share their quarters with a respectable number of other apprehended criminal suspects.  Have our elite perps host fellow unfortunates, accommodated four to each bedroom, far less density than found in our typical municipal lock-up.  Such facilities will, of course, save money for local government, while clearing our streets free of some car thieves, drug dealers, muggers, and billionaires.

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